The Hollywood limelight will forever cast a wide net of criticism over the slightest slip-ups of the world’s most renowned actors and actresses. Especially when it comes down to police mugshots, some famous faces do not manage to come off well. Martin Sheen does not have any ridiculous arrest photos, but does he have a surprisingly long list of arrests: the most in Hollywood.
However, an organization called The Papillon Foundation has the motto, “The Greatest Crime is a Wasted Life,” clearly outlining the organization’s goal: to help people with arrest records remain active members of society, rather than becoming social outcasts.
It goes without saying, however, that they hardly need to give some of Hollywood’s best-known talents a hand. Actors and actress alike have been arrested, rearrested, and convicted time and time again, but still maintain a career in the film industry.
When you link the charge to a celebrity, however, you think one of two things: either, it’s someone like John Lennon, put in cuffs during some sit-in (which never happened – his only arrest was for possession of a small amount of “grass”); or, there’s a misconception that civil disobedience includes public indecency.
Why is it so hard to think a celebrity could be arrested in the name of what they consider to be a good cause? Enter: Martin Sheen. It’s understandable to think dubiously of a man who’s been arrested a total 66 times, especially when his son Charlie went on a very public, downward spiral (Winning?!). And especially since one of Martin Sheen’s most famous roles is that of the president of the United States on the series West Wing which aired between 1999-2006.
Martin Sheen is not a felon, however. All of his arrests are tied to activism. Unlike John Lennon, Sheen has been physically caught up in his protests. The 2007 arrest was for trespassing with the Nevada Desert Experience, a group staunchly committed to stop the testing of nuclear weapons in the U.S.
Referring to his first arrest in 1986 while protesting President Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative, Sheen says, “It was a terrifying experience, and also one of the happiest days of my life because it turned out we had done everything we possibly could to object to this idea.”
This was during a speech he delivered to Oxford University in 2009. Lamenting that it had then been a year since his latest arrest, Sheen underlined the importance of activism, saying that it’s what he does “to stay alive.”
Prefacing a face-to-face interview on the WE Charity’s YouTube special Shameless Idealists, head of the organization (formerly Free the Children), Craig Kielburger, jokes that Martin Sheen has “a rap sheet almost as long as his list of film credits.”
Martin Sheen is a polarizing figure for many, especially in the political arena. His methods and tactics surely may be questioned. But whatever one may think of Sheen, his films, his activism and the issues he considers worthy of being arrested for, there is no denying his conviction and courage for what he believes in. Something that can be shared across all political ideologies.